C. S. Lewis: Aversion to Crass “Christmas” Commercialism

C. S. Lewis: Aversion to Crass “Christmas” Commercialism November 1, 2019

From: The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts, and the War, 1931-1949, edited by Walter Hooper, HarperSanFrancisco, 2004:

I couldn’t agree with you more about the commercial rush of ‘Xmas’ as distinct both from the Christian festival of Christmas and the old Germanic feast of Yule. The idiotic exchange of cards which have nothing to do with the Nativity by people who care nothing about Our Lord — this maddening interchange of presents which no one wants to receive — the monstrous annual campaign of advertisements with their venal geniality — the aching feet of the shopper and the shop-girl — the waste of the world’s wealth in producing all this rubbish of gadgets  and ‘novelties’ — faugh! Giving toys to children and food to the hungry (as you do!) is very well . . . (31 October 1949, pp. 992-993)

From: The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, edited by Walter Hooper, HarperSanFrancisco, 2007:

[W]e — like you no doubt — are in the climax of the ‘Christmas rush’, a time which I always regard with horror. I hope I am not a Scrooge, but with every year that passes I find myself more and more in revolt against the commercialized racket of ‘Xmas’. (19 December 1952, p. 268)

How wretchedly the Christian festival of Christmas has got snowed under by all the fuss and racket of commercialized ‘Xmas’. (20 December 1952, p. 269)

I feel exactly as you do about the horrid commercial racket they have made out of Christmas. I send no cards and give no presents except to children. (27 November 1953, p. 378)

I feel very strongly as you do about the hollowness of this interminable ‘Xmas’ racket and the slightness of its connection with the real Christmas. (7 December 1954, p. 540)

The enclosed card was one of the very few I have been pleased at getting. Christmas cards in general and the whole vast commercial drive called ‘Xmas’ are one of my pet abominations: I wish they could die away and leave the Christian feast unentangled. Not of course that even secular festivities are, on their own level, an evil: but the laboured and organised jollity of this — the spurious childlikeness — the half-hearted and sometimes rather profane attempts to keep up some superficial connection with the Nativity — are disgusting. (17 December 1955, p. 686)

I’m afraid I hate the weeks before Christmas, and so much of the (very commercialised & vulgarised) fuss has nothing to do with the Nativity at all. (19 December 1955, p. 689)

May some tiny little island for the feast of the Nativity be left us amid all the horrors and tedium of ‘Xmas’ (with a plague upon it!). (22 December 1955, p. 690)

Let us hope that both of us will have been given Grace. amidst all this ghastly commercial racket of ‘Xmas’, to enter into the feast of the Nativity: the racket has nearly smothered it! (22 December 1959, p. 1113)

So you too have the Christmas racket, do you? Well you have all our sympathies, for here it has got to such a point that by the time the real festival takes place one is often too jaded to enjoy it. (10 December 1960, p. 1216)

. . . the much abused word seasonable, which meets me at every turn in this regrettable season of the year. (I’m not of course referring to Christmas, but to the commercial racket which [his brother] Warnie and I call Xmas to distinguish it from the Christian festival). (22 December 1960, p. 1217)

I dread this vast (and largely commercialised) nuisance more every year. Ugh! (24 December 1960, p. 1218)

Is it still possible amid this ghastly racket of ‘Xmas’ to exchange greetings for the Feast of the Nativity? If so, mine, very warm, to both of you. (To J. R. R. Tolkien, 24 December 1962, p. 1396)

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As to Lewis’ frequent derogatory use of “Xmas”: I fully understand it in context, but that usage does have a traditional Christian justification. I wrote about it in my paper,  “Xmas” & the Christian “Fish”: Etymology & History.

For much material about the true meaning and celebration of Christmas (including my 14 original Christmas poems), see my Christmas web page.

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Photo credit: Mike Licht (12-20-11) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]

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